What is the Relationship between Anthropology and Sociology?


Sociology studies human behaviour in groups. It is a science of man and studies human behaviour in social surroundings. Thus it is clear that the subject matter of sociology and anthropology is common to a great extent. In fact, no special difference in these two sciences was recognised in the beginning of the 20th century.

The idea of recognising them as two separate sciences is comparatively new. Sociology and anthropology have highly influenced each other. For example, the ideology of Durkheim, a sociologist, has greatly influenced the doctrines of anthropologists like Malinowski and Radcliffe Brown. Hoebel has stated very clearly that “Sociology and Social Anthropology, in their broadest senses, are one and the same.”

The subject matter of social anthropology is so much similar to the subject matter of sociology that many scientists have regarded it as a branch of sociology. Evans Pritchard has written that, “Social anthropology can, therefore, be regarded as a branch of sociological studies, that branch which chiefly devotes itself to the primitive societies.”


Scholars have also laid stress on this relation of sociology with social anthropology. Koreber has gone so far as to call sociology and anthropology as twin sisters. Robert writes that “Viewing the whole united states, one” sees that the relations between Sociology and Anthropology are closer than those between anthropology and political science, this is partly due to greater similarity in ways of work”. Utility of Anthropological Researches for Sociology

Discoveries of different branches of anthropology have thrown a new light on the principles of sociology. Social anthropology as a branch of anthropology is nearest to sociology. Its aim is to study human behaviour in social surroundings.

Many of its discoveries have given a new light to several subjects of sociology. Sociology has taken the ideas of cultural field, cultural apparatus, interdependent apparatus, cultural lagging, etc. from social anthropology, and sociology has developed on their basis.

The important discoveries of famous anthropologists like Ralph Linton and Abraham Kardiner have greatly influenced sociology. Both these anthropologists have discovered that there is a basic personality type in every society which is created by cultural influence on an individual from the very childhood. This basic personality type is different because of a difference in cultural influences.


Kardiner has written about Alorese, an Indionesian Negro tribe, that in their society, the basic personality type is a mistrustful, doubting, quarrelsome, coward and exploited individual, whereas, in our own society, such individual will be considered mentally diseased and unnatural.

According to Ralph Linton, the same anxiety and ritual, taboos and rules are found about food articles among the people of Markesas Island in Pacific Ocean as are found in our society about sex matters. It is clear from these discoveries that every society has its own culture and the individual character of its people undergoes a change according to that culture from the very childhood.

The discoveries of Malinowski, a British anthropologist, have proved very important in sociology. The applied viewpoint of the study of culture is a special contribution to sociology by Malinowski. According to it, culture should be studied with the viewpoint of its usefulness for man. The discoveries of Ruth Benedict have been very helpful in studying various sociological problems about national character.

Besides social anthropology, the various discoveries of physical anthropology have also exerted great influence on various problems of sociology. In the book entitled Anthropology and the Modern Life Franz Boas has given a detailed description of this influence. Anthropological discoveries have proved that social environments play an important part in turning an individual into a criminal. It has been proved form the ethnological discoveries of Franz Boas and Otto Klineberg that physical characteristics have nothing to do with the mental special features and that the influence of environment is the chief cause of mental differences.


Anthropology has also helped sociology by disproving the ideas of racialism. The discoveries of anthropology have proved that no race today can claim purity or superiority over other races.

In this way, the discoveries of anthropology have proved very useful for sociology. Maclver and many other sociologists have attached great importance to this contribution of anthropology. Difference between Anthropology and Sociology

In the modern age, anthropology and sociology have developed so much that to know their differences is more necessary than to know their relations. The main differences between these two sciences are given below:

1. Difference in scope:


The scope of sociology and social anthropology is different. Social anthropology studies primitive society whereas sociology studies modern society. Social anthropology studies all the social, economic, political and cultural sides. Sociology studies the social relations and social interactions. In this way, the study of sociology is more particular and that of anthropology more general.

2. Difference of object:

Sociologist also suggests means for improvement along with his study of sociology. The study of the anthropologists is more neutral and he does not offer any suggestions.

3. Difference in methods of study:


The methods of study of sociology and social anthropology are different. Social anthropology specially uses applied methods. One method of this kind is participant observation according to which, anthropologists himself goes to live in that society which he has to study. On the other hand, the chief methods of sociology depend on survey and statistics.

4. Difference in viewpoints:

Sociological viewpoint is different from anthropological viewpoint. One is particular and the other is general. One is the viewpoint of a specialist and the other viewpoint is that of a scientist. One is actuated by desire to improve and the other is neutral.

Sociology and social anthropology and their decisions can “be of important help for the human well-bringing. For example, they help uprooting the dangerous elements like racialism and colour discriminations.

They can create a sense of tolerance towards the people of other societies, institutions and cultures and they can also help in understanding and solving social, economic and political problems. For example, anthropological study will be of great help in finding out means for the welfare of different tribes and primitive societies in India.

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